The wonderful picture book, “The promise” by Nicola Davies has had a lovely animation made in in collaboration with the BBC. The story is a beautifully illustrated story with illustrations courtesy of Laura Carlin. It tells the story of a young girl thief who finds redemption through planting acorns. It has a dark side to it but ultimately a wonderfully positive message. Even if you don’t have children I would recommend reading it and watching the new animation as it’s beautiful.
The Promise provides a wonderful platform for climate action with young children. It has been launched in several versions with an English and Gaelic version currently. The main purpose is to get people planting trees. For educators there have been some wonderful resources made to go alongside the launch with presentations on why trees matter, biodiversity, and worksheets to learn more. There is lots for teachers to get their teeth stuck into. Increasingly schools are having to send their children home during the Covid crisis and much of what has been included here is ideal for home learning. Even if the school is not facing Covid closures there is much here that can be shared with families and a time when educators are having to be a bit more distant than normal. We can’t currently invite parents into the nursery I work, but we can encourage growing projects at home. This is well suited to bridging that gap between home and school at the moment.
I wanted to do a few activities with Alice this half term around the story but we are lacking acorns. I have a few saved from earlier in the year but I don’t think many are viable for planting so I have been looking at different seeds we can try growing in order to encourage a few more trees.
While we are lacking acorns we have no shortage of conkers, horse chestnut seeds. Conkers need to experience a period of cold for several months before germination. Known as cold stratification. You can plant them outside and many will likely germinate, though some will rot, some may be eaten before they get a chance to get going. So we are placing them in the fridge for a few months. After that we can check to see which are viable by dunking in water. Floaters are viable, sinkers need discarding. In spring we can plant them out in pots outside. They just need protection from being eaten by squirrels or the young stalk being devoured.
Usually when I weed the garden I will find a handful of trees that have established in the borders by themselves. The nearby maple is the worst culprit for this. It often seeds its helicopter seeds into the mass of hydrangeas making it hard to get out and also the reason it goes unnoticed until it has gained some height. Having a look through the borders this week I found a tiny little seedling that looks to be a holly. I’ve carefully dug it out and potted it up. Holly and most evergreen plants are not necessarily great for battling climate change but they are great for wildlife so it seems worth preserving. They also tolerate our sea winds well.
When I mentioned to Alice that I wanted to grow more trees she was keen to grow apple trees. Thinking with her stomach. Most apple trees are sold as grafts as this ensures that they retain the flavour of the parent tree. However, you can take a chance and grow from the pips, from the seeds. The pips will have a mixture of genetics meaning they may taste nothing like the parents so it is something of a lottery. However it is only through this experimentation that we end up with new wonderful varieties of apples. As with the conkers pips need a period of cold. We have placed them on a damp paper towel, then within a slightly opened bag in the fridge. Some may germinate while in the fridge. In a few months’ time we will take them out of the fridge and plant a few to a pot. Then I’ll pull out the weaker ones. Apples apparently have quite low germination success so we may not have much to show for this experiment, but it is ultimately free as we eat tons of apples.
We started a tray of Paulonia tomentosa last month and many have germinated. Known as the foxglove tree, it is one of the fastest growing trees around. An acre can absorb 103 metric tons of carbon dioxide a year. It can be highly invasive in some countries but I plan to pollard it cutting it back each year as it grows large leaves, up to 40cm long, this way. This means it doesn’t get a chance to flower and spread. On the positive side though it can absorb mass carbon, prevents soil erosion and produces hard wood quickly leading to it getting recommended for many tree planting schemes and reforestation projects. But one I would recommend researching before trying to grow.
A little more information on easy trees to grow from seed here.
I have low expectations of this method but it looks ornamental enough even if it fails. Pine cones contain the seed of the tree. The seed is usually small and falls out when the pine cone opens. If you keep a pine cone moist the seeds can grow up from the pine cone or around the base if placed on a layer of compost. The cones needs to be found while closed before they open and drop their seeds. I have set mine up pushed gently into a pot of compost. I will then spray this to try to keep it moist but not so wet it rots. Around the base I’ve placed a bit of moss scraped from the fence. I may set up a few more around the garden in different locations if we find some more cones. This beast of a cone was found on a walk through the park in the rain yesterday. We’d gone out for some puddle jumping and leaf kicking to make the most of autumn. I may see about going back to see if we can find some more.
The Promise project is looking to connect with local planting and growing groups. So if you are involved with community projects that are planning to plant more trees it is worth checking their site out. You can make a handshake agreement to promise to plant more trees.
The resources on the screening page look useful with templates for looking at parts of an acorn, the lifecycle of the oak, Japanese leaf pressing, and ideas for acrostic poems based on The Lost Words poems.
I hope you all check it out. It’s a great project and it will hopefully inspire some tree planting projects. Below is one last link to the video.
We will see next year which of our tree planting efforts succeed. I don’t need all of these for my garden so I will look at using some for work or donating to community projects locally. There have already been many tree planting schemes locally but some of the trees have died over summer as they didn’t plan for aftercare and watering while they establish. So, if we manage to get any of these to a decent point we can maybe help replace some of those. Fingers crossed.